By LACHLAN MOORHEAD
FIVE Berwick primary school students were smiling from ear to ear after being crowned national Robotics champions over the weekend.
A team of 10 children from Berwick Lodge Primary School, Glendal Primary School and Mountview Primary School competed in the National First Lego League (FLL) Robotics Championships at Sydney’s Macquarie University on Saturday, taking home first prize after a whirlwind day of competitions against 35 different teams.
The FLL Challenge is comprised of three parts – the Robot Game, the Project and the Core Values – with the children required to design, build and program three robots for each category.
The theme for the competition was ‘Nature’s Fury’, mastering natural disasters, with the Berwick Lodge team selecting bushfires as the most pressing issue for the local Victorian community. As part of the competition the Berwick team built a prototype ‘Hot Spot Spotter’ robot, which was intended to detect trees likely to explode following a bushfire.
Berwick Lodge Primary School Principal Henry Grossek, who accompanied the students to Sydney along with the school’s Lego Robotics and Inquiry Learning teacher Traceye Rapinett, said their team was unique, bringing together children from three different schools and all aged between 10 and 12.
“The experience of children at three primary schools working together informally on robotics throughout the year and then for the past three months on the robot challenge has been so rewarding for them,” he said.
“The building of new friendships, the sharing of ideas, using modern social technology to deal with the geographical distance between the schools and locating and working with experts in the various fields relevant to the challenge – World Vision (disaster management), the CFA (dealing with bushfires), Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and robotics experts.”
The Berwick students’ team, which also won the Victorian championship three weeks ago, dubbed themselves ‘Control-Alt-Delete’ and as Australian Champions are now invited to attend either the World Festival in St Louis, USA in April, or the Open Championships to be held in Pamplona, Spain at the end of May.
As winners the team get to decide which option they select, while the runners-up will compete in the other competition.
Mr Grossek marvelled at the team’s development in such a short space of time.
“This all began for us three years ago at the Atlanta Championships where Glendal Primary School was representing Australia and, in the briefings we conducted after the event, we analysed what it would take for an Australian team to be competitive at this level,” he said.
“We have still to prove this on the world stage, but believe we are well on the way towards achieving this now.
“Our next challenge is for our team to build on the achievement at the national championships and take this to the world stage and of course, establish a sponsorship program which will enable us to compete.”
Mr Grossek said Robotics was a high end curriculum choice, with relatively few Australian schools offering it.
“Australia is behind the eight-ball in robotics education compared with the USA, Europe and Asia and it is a field that is rich in employment opportunities,” he said.
“It helps Australia improve its stature world-wide, educationally and in technology and commerce.”